Thursday, June 15, 2017

21st century Bible Hebrew -- telling words apart

Genesis 1:4
 
ד וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ:
 
Translation:     Gd must have manifested the light for it was good, for Gd separated the light and the darkness.
 
Vocabulary in this lesson:
יַּרְא
manifest
כִּי
because, for, if, when
טוֹב
good
יַּבְדֵּל
divide, separate
בֵּין
between, from
חֹשֶׁךְ:
darkness
 
I’m going to give you raah in both qal and hifil imperfect. They are both good conjugations to learn. We’ll see the hifil several times more in Torah and we’ll see the qal in narrative past.
 
qal
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
אֶרְאֶה
נִרְאֶה
First
תִּרְאֶה
תִּרְאוּ
Second/masculine
תִּרְאִי
תִּרְאֶנָה
Second/feminine
יִרְאֶה
יִרְאוּ
Third/masculine
תִּרְאֶה
תִּרְאֶנָה
Third/feminine
 
 
hifil
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
אַרְאֶה
נַרְאֶה
First
תַּרְאֶה
תַּרְאוּ
Second/masculine
תַּרְאִי
תַּרְאֶנָה
Second/feminine
יַרְאֶה
יַרְאוּ
Third/masculine
תַּרְאֶה
תַּרְאֶנָה
Third/feminine
 
You’re saying, but teacher, how do we tell them apart? Well, it’s partly the vowel under the prefix that makes them different in writing. That vowel is there because that’s how these words were pronounced when there was no way to write Hebrew down, or when the vast majority of Israelites or Jews were illiterate. One paper I read estimated that 85% of Jews were illiterate in 100 CE, almost 1000 years after Hebrew had a writing system and over 500 years after Torah was put into writing officially.
 
But it’s also the context.  A prize-winning writer once claimed they couldn’t be told apart. Not in isolation they can’t. But the point of words is to be used with other words to express something meaningful (Torah came long before Dadaist literature, remember), and in this larger setting, you can usually figure out whether somebody is seeing or showing. (There’s a midrash for that.)
 
Midrash Rabbah Breshit 3:3 attributes to Rabbi Yehudah bar Simon, transmitted by Rabbi Berekhyah, that the created things already existed, Gd simply caused them to become perceptible. (Rabbi Berekhyah lived between 320 and 350 CE.)  That’s an even larger context than this verse, or chapter, or book, etc. And that larger context also helps determine whether you are seeing or showing,
 
If you have been reading my Fact-Checking blog, you  know that I’m just finishing up a section on language where I talked about context as determining meaning.  I have more examples there.  It’s a long blog and you can start at the beginning to learn more about how to read Torah.
 
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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